May 16, 2008
Barack Obama should have known better than to express resentment over President Bush's derision of appeasement in a speech yesterday. But when his party's leaders in Washington made this a high-profile issue, he didn't have much choice but to weigh in. The President was speaking to the Israeli Knesset, the first major stop on his trip to the Middle East, and ridiculed the idea of negotiating with governments that promote terrorism such as Iran, or radical Islamic groups such as Hamas. "We have heard this foolish delusion before," referring to the failure of appeasement to prevent Hitler from launching World War II. In response, Nancy Pelosi called Bush's remarks "beneath the dignity of the office of president..." (I wonder what she said when Democratic Congressmen David Bonior and Jim McDermott went on a "peace" trip to Baghdad in October 2002 -- suggesting that Saddam Hussein was more trustworthy than our president?!) On the Senate side, Joe Biden used foul language to express outrage at Bush's insinuation, but later retracted part of what he said. Obama, in turn, criticized Bush's "extraordinary politicization" of foreign policy, notwithstanding the fact that he himself has made foreign policy a central part of his campaign, often disparaging the President in an extraordinarily rude manner. See Washington Post.
This is a very interesting case, because while Bush raised a very good point, he did so in a manner that was guaranteed to generate controversy: while on foreign soil and in an indirect way that gives the President "plausible deniability." (White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush's speech was not directed at Obama -- yeah, right.) In the "good old days," politics was said to end "at the water's edge," meaning that U.S. political leaders had a tacit understanding not to criticize their own country while traveling abroad. Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have long since made a mockery of that quaint old custom, of course, but only after they stepped down from the presidency. There is a lot of truth in what Bush said, but for the sake of prudence (and national unity), he should have used milder words to characterize the "appeasement lobby." After all, some Democrats do "get it" (i.e., grasp the nature of the conflict we are in).
The network news programs dutifully broadcast a video clip of McCain saying that we might have to deal with Hamas if they won the Palestinian elections in 2006, which indeed they did. He didn't say we would "negotiate" with them, however. In any case, this illustrates why it is so important to resist Islamo-fascist movements before they gain power; after they do, it's too late.
The occasion for Bush's visit was the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the declaration of independence by the Israelis. WaPo columnist Charles Krauthammer hails the truly miraculous rebirth of the sovereign nation of Israel via the Zionist movement. He also reminds us that the suffering of the Palestinian people, while genuine and heart-wrenching, is mainly the result of their own leaders' fanaticism and imprudence. Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip, and what does it get in return? A barrage of rockets fired from the "save haven" of civilian neighborhoods, all but guaranteeing innocent deaths if Israel does anything to try to stop it. What despicable cowards are the leaders of Hamas! Krauthammer concludes, "Israel's crime is not its policies" (which the Arabs typically invoke to justify their violence) "but its insistence on living." And living well, I might add. More than anything else, it is material resentment that motivates most terrorists.